Local youth travel to D.C. to build support for education, job training

Staff Report

April 3, two students from Comprehensive Community Solutions Workforce Development programs — YouthBuild and RockforWork — will be in Washington, D.C., meeting with elected officials. They are being joined by more than 100 fellow students from YouthBuild programs across the country to advocate for increased federal dollars to support the U.S. Department of Labor’s YouthBuild program.

For 35 years, YouthBuild programs have proven to be truly effective in reconnecting low-income young people ages 16 to 24, all without a high school diploma, to education and employment.

CCS’s YouthBuild Rockford Program is one of 264 YouthBuild programs in the U.S. where young people like Cortavian Potter and Andrew Ashley are working toward their GEDs or high school diplomas while simultaneously receiving job training and earning a living allowance as they help build affordable housing in their communities.

Tremendous emphasis is also placed on preparation for careers and/or postsecondary education, leadership development, community service, and the creation of a positive mini-community of adults and youth committed to each other’s success.

YouthBuild is the only national community-based youth development program focused on low-income young people who have left high school without a diploma, offering an equal emphasis on education and job training in which the students build valuable assets for their communities, internalizing the ethic of service while gaining the academic and job skills they need to take responsibility for themselves and their families. And that’s why this trip is so important to them.

I grew up most of my life without a father for guidance and my little cousin was killed during an armed robbery in Rockford,” Potter said. “This was an awakening for me, and it was at this point that I knew I had to make a change. This trip has helped me to see that there are rewards to change.”

Ashley added: “This trip is important because it tells me that people trust me enough to go represent them, and it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This will be the first time I have ever stepped foot on a plane.”

While in D.C. April 3 — National YouthBuild Day — Potter and Ashley and fellow Youth Builders will be asking their elected officials, specifically U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D) and Mark Kirk (R), to sign on to a letter that is now being circulated by U.S. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, to her fellow senators. The letter asks for an increase to $102.5 million in the 2015 Department of Labor federal YouthBuild appropriation, thus returning the program to its FY 2010 funding level.

All local non-profit and public entities are eligible to apply for funds from the U.S. Department of Labor on a competitive basis under this appropriation to bring YouthBuild to their communities. At this level, 25 additional rural and urban communities will be able to offer this outstanding opportunity to disconnected youth seeking a chance to rebuild their communities and their lives.

YouthBuild Rockford and RockforWork are programs of Comprehensive Community Solutions, Inc. Learn more at www.youthbuildrockford.org.

From the April 2-8, 2014 issue

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